Monday, September 26, 2005

Jeff: That Positive Winning Feeling

When it comes to my favorite sports teams, I've been called everything from pessimistic and bitter, to flat out being in need of intervention. And I deny none of this. BUt let me tell you, I've got nothing on the guys over at the Startribune. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but the Vikings did win yesterday, right? The offense looked like it has the past five years instead of the past two weeks, and the defense started to look like the one everyone was telling us it was suppose to look like. Yes, the Vikes let New Orleans back into it, and there's always things to improve upon, but wouldn't you think this would be a time to celebrate as a Vikings fan that the season's not lost and our playoff hopes are still alive? Maybe it's just me.

But open the Startrib sports section up today, and other than Sid's usual corporate ass-kissing, you'd think the Vikings would have suffered their third straight humiliating defeat in a row! Reusse, in a column titled "2nd Half sag takes joy out of victory", claimed the Vikes allowing New Orleans back into the game was MORE embarrassing than getting blown out by the Bengals! Jim Souhan, who's wit and sarcasm I normally enjoyed, was only concerned about who was calling the plays yesterday. Um fellas? WE WON! WE WON THE FREAKIN GAME AND LOOKED GOOD DOING IT!!!!! I understand that in writing columns you need an angle, and generally the more negative or sarcastic you are, the more interest it generates but give me a break! It's probably the fan in me breathing a sigh of relief at what I saw yesterday, and I'm not at all assuming that all is well and we'll go undefeated now on our way to Detroit in February. Both columnists have vaild arguments. The Vikes need to close games better, because a better team could have come back to get them (there were comeback wins across the league yesterday as examples). And play-calling certainly is an issue and could affect things down the road.

But I'll give you one word to describe why it doesn't worry me all that much: Zygy. Ladies and Gentlemen, VIkings fans everywhere, need I remind you that we FINALLY have an owner who cares as much about winning as he does about the bottom line. Mike Tice and his staff have this season to prove they're qualified to guide this team to the Super Bowl. If they can't, and we end up out of the playoffs or falling short yet again, guess what? THEY"RE GONE! And they won't be replaced by the cheapest staff available. Quite the contrary, we'll have a shot at the best people out there. I'm not saying Zygy Wilf is a saint and a martyr. He bought this team because he knows if (and hopefully when) the Vikings get a new stadium, it will mean a boatload of money for him. But this also means that for Zygy to rally support for a new stadium, he needs the Vikes to win, and that means doing whatever it takes to get the best team on the field. This is good for us.

So I know the win yesterday wasn't perfect, and it could be one of few this year. But after suffering through the first two weeks with this team, am I asking too much when I just want one week to rejoice and feel good about the team? Maybe it's me.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Jeremy: Gopher Bliss

It felt good on Saturday. It felt really good.
With 7:47 left in the game I turned to Jeffrey and said words that I could not get out of my head until I was back in the parking lot after the Gopher/Purdue game: "this feels way too much like playing against Michigan." Jeff shook his head yes. He understood that we had been through this several times.
I pointed to the field and said "I want those guys to prove me wrong."
I wasn't saying that I didn't have confidence in Mason and the Gophers ability to pull out the win... okay, yeah I was. I was skeptical and I was getting myself set up for disappointment. It feels really good to be wrong.
Too many times I've had to look at my uncle in the parking lot after a game like that and watch him shake his head in disbelief. Too many times I've listened to my cousin or my friends cuss and stomp in anger after a game like that. Too many times I've spent the hour after a game like that talking about the list of what went wrong. Too many times.
It was nice to sit in the parking lot after the game and see happy faces walking past. It was nice to enjoy a cold one as a celebration, not because you needed to drown away what had happened.
As for the game itself, one thing was proven that everybody knew, and one thing happened that nobody expected.
Everybody knew that Laurence Maroney was one of the best backs in the country, but the way he sliced through the #1 rated rushing defense in the nation on Saturday was a thing of beauty. Acting as the workhorse, something Maroney has never had to do, he racked up 333 yards on the ground, on receptions and on kick-off returns. That is just a huge number. Even though he didn't score any touchdowns you can't tell me this guy isn't a legit contender for the Heisman.
I'm not sure anybody expected to see anything worthwhile out of Cupito during this game. Of course, the guy did throw three picks, but the amazing thing that happened was that he began to show guts and a surprisingly bad memory. Everytime he threw a pick it seemed like he forgot that he had just thrown one of the worst passes of his life, and he came back and kept working at it. He showed moments of sheer confusion and cluelessness, but for once those moments were followed by moments of brilliance and accuracy. After throwing his third and final pick of the game, Cupito led the Gophs through the 4th quarter, into overtime, and on to victory, going 7-11 for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. Although he still has moments when he looks like he has decided who he is going to throw to in the huddle instead of checking down all of his receivers, he is beginning to look like he can handle the adversity of being a Big 10 quarterback.
Next up Penn State in Happy Valley.
For the record, my predictions about the season so far are right on, but after feeling so good about being wrong during the Purdue game, I hope the Gophers prove me wrong against the other Big 10 powerhouses.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Rainy Days & Mondays Always Get Jeff & Jeremy Down...

Monday emails...
Do you still think the NFC West is the worst division in football? The only NFC North team to even look competant last week got trounced by the Bears, the Vikings might be the worst team in football and the Packers aren't far behind. Will 2005 go down in history as the worst year ever to be a Minnesota sports fan? Think about it.

Yes, it's unquestionably the worst division in football now. I tell ya, the fact the Bears are leading with Kyle FREAKIN Orton at QB, that's all you need to know. How do the Vikes get fixed? I mean, at least the Pack have been competitive in their 2 games. The Vikes have looked awful in pretty much every aspect. Culpepper needs to figure things out in a hurry, and as scary as it is to say, I think Tice calling plays now will be an improvement over Loney. By the way, we can STILL blame that one on Red, as he again didn't want to spend decent $$ for a coordinator.

I agree, blaming Red for Loney is the right call. But what about everything else? We picked up talent all over the defensive side of the ball and they are just flat out embarrassing right now. The offense... there's no excuse for that either. Something has gotten inside Daunte's head and he is in trouble in a big way, the running game is non-existant. Anybody who still thinks that Michael Bennett has a shot to be a good back in this league is kidding themselves. I was shocked when I heard a guy this morning on KFAN say that they need to just give him the ball for an entire game and let him figure it out. Really? Seriously? Two fumbles in the first half isn't enoughto yank him? And then for him to complain about getting pulled, give me an F'ing break!!! Our only hope at this point is Zygi Wilf... he's going to pull the trigger here pretty soon and I think we are going to see a shake up like nobodys business.

Agreed about Ziggy. He already made a shrewd move by only reworking Daunte's contract for this season. And of course not re-upping with Tice. My question is how long do you stick with Daunte? By leaving Daunte in there the entire game, AND by taking over control of the play-calling, it seems to me TIce is going down with his QB. Granted the offense looked better on that last drive, but the intensity from Cincinnati is going to be a little different when they're up 37-0 than if the game were close. Still, I'll give the passing attack one more game to see if play-calling is really all it is. But with how lost Daunte looks, I don't think that's all it is.
As for running the ball, Mewelde should be the starter. Yeah, it's tough to give Bennett more carries when they got in the hole so fast against the Bengals, but he's had 2 games and done nothing but fumble or barely cross the line of scrimmage.
Defense? What to do indeed. 9 guys, Jer- NINE of them are either 1st round picks or have been to the Pro Bowl. There's talent there but something's wrong. As good as our line is supposed to be they're still not getting a pass rush or stopping the run, and the secondary can be better. We need to start over at linebacker. Watching the Chefs game last night, I'm now thinking Derrick Johnson should have been the choice instead of Mike Williams instead of Troy Williamson with that 7th pick. If Daunte continues to struggle, when SHOULD we see Brad Johnson?

Are you like me? Are you totally NOT looking forward to the BradJohnson era? I'm not convinced it will come to that. I still believeDaunte is going to figure something out, but if he doesn't do it byhalftime of the Saints game, he's a marked man. Like I said before,it seems like something just got in his head. He says he's going tobe as confident as ever, but he doesn't look like it now. Regardingyour voicemail about him seeing new defensive sets this year and notbeing able to figure it out, that would make a lot of sense. Hedoesn't seem to know who to throw to, he's missing the guys that he isthrowing to, if he sees them at all, and it literally almost lookslike he's throwing to the other team sometimes.You are right about the defense, I can't argue at all. Is it possiblethat Ted Cotrell just isn't that good of a coordinator? He had verylittle talent last year and he did nothing. This year he's beenhanded the world on a silver platter and still nothing is going right.I'm struggling with where the line between bad coaching and notexecuting comes in. Obviously turnovers aren't a coaching problem andneither are penalties, but then again, does that point to the team notbeing prepared? I just don't know. If a coach is to blame then ALLof the coaches are to blame. Did you see how wide open Johnson was onthat first touchdown? Nobody was even close. Is that poor execution,or was the wrong defensive set called?All I know is somethings got to give and something needs to give soon. It's a good thing we are in the NFC North or we'd already be out ofit. What's our time frame for hitting the panic button? I saw a staton SportsCenter today: since 1990 only 14% of teams starting theseason 0-2 made the playoffs. Ouch! So... what was your favoritememory of the Mike Tice era?

Not sure if you've checked out lately. The poll question right now is should Tice be fired? Over 80,000 have voted and 54% say yes.
Also, the Texans, whose offense has sucked as much as the Vikes, fired their O-Coordinator today. Hmmmm...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Jeremy: A Tougher Gopher Non-Conference Schedule?

I had to make a difficult life decision late this summer. The summer started out just like the past few summers with conversations of Gopher Football season tickets. Would we try to bamboozle student tickets again? Would we finally grow up and pay full price for real tickets? Who's in? Who's out?
The talk of tickets began to fizzle out a bit, and as it did, I was forced to make a decision...
in any case, I didn't get Gopher Football season tickets this year. If there are any more unanswered questions let me answer them now. No, I will not be able to go to Michigan (sorry to my uncle and cousin). No, I will not be able to go to Iowa (sorry Nick, Niall & Danny Carvel). It could have been an unprecedented season. I could have seen 5 Gopher home football games and two huge road games. It was not to be. For the record, I couldn't be happier or more confident in my decision to not get Gopher Football season tickets. More on that later.
I wasn't at the game against Colorado State yesterday because I was working. I also didn't get to see it on t.v. But of course, I still have something to say.
Here are some things that stand out after pouring over the numbers and the articles on yesterday's game.
*Mason seems to be especially hell-bent on being negative this year. I like this change. I'm not a Mason guy (in case you hadn't noticed) and my biggest criticism has always been that he is a little bit too much "puppy-dogs and ice cream" when it comes to breaking down his team. He seems to be expecting perfection so far this year. His team has now won two games by a combined score of 97-34, and all we've heard him talk about is what they need to do better. I like it!
*Colorado State played a very close game against their in-state rival Colorado last week, leading many people to believe that CSU was a pretty good squad. Colorado should have a solid Big 12 football team this year, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. CSU is a better non-conference opponent than most of the teams the Gophers generally bring in this time of year. But let's get serious. Colorado State is nowhere near the caliber of an Ohio State or a Michigan. They played Colorado close in a game that is generally close because of the in-state implications. Is this Gopher team good? Of course. Are they very good? It's possible. Have they proven anything yet? No way.
*Defensively the Gophers gave up 425 yards. Not too bad in college football. But here's the stat that concerns me: 363 passing yards. It still looks like, even with new Defensive Coordinator David Lockwood's new aggressive style, the Gophers still aren't able to stop the pass. True, the Big 10 Conference is a rough-neck running conference... but it turns out there's one or two good quarterbacks on the schedule this season. Lockwood at least seems to be sending more rushers and more blitzes on passing, but it's what happens after the quarterback throws the ball that concerns me now. Don't get me wrong, I think we're getting there on the defensive side of the ball... but we still have to play in the Big 10.
*Maroney is unreal. I'm convinced that if Mason kept him in the game yesterday he would have rushed for over 200 yards and 4 touchdowns. Again, we are talking about inferior defensive competition, but Maroney has a good shot at going into the Big 10 Conference schedule with over 500 yards rushing.
*Bryan Cupito still isn't putting up the kind of dominant non-conference numbers that you'd like to see him put up before heading into the conference schedule, but at least he's contributing. It's unclear the Cupito and the passing game will get much of a chance to get comfortable before the Purdue game. So far the Gophers are rushing the ball more than twice as much as they are passing. A lot of this has to do with ball control when they already have the game in hand. But could it have to do with Mason's lack of confidence in Cupito and the passing game?

I still stand by my previous predictions for this Gopher season. A great team with one of the best running games in the country and talent on both sides of the ball. But I don't see Mason coaching them to any better than a 7-4 season.